The Brothers Path
by Martha Kennedy
By award winning author, Martha Kennedy.
The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.
Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.
Praise for Brothers Path by Martha Kennedy
“A remarkable historical novel that follows the lives of a group of brothers in Reformation Switzerland as they struggle with their various beliefs while winning and losing family battles. I have read a previous book by this author, Martin of Gfenn, and am preparing to read her Savior. I am not usually a fan of histories, especially those dealing with crises of faith, but this author has found the secret of bringing these times and people alive. I enjoy her writing, and am humbled by learning what religion has wrought in this world for many times before our own.”-Amazon Reviewer
“I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Brothers Path’. Written about a pivotal time in our religious history, this was an interesting look at a large family who each had different opinions of the new Protestant thoughts presented to the population. Being a free thinker was quite new and families stretched as a result. This is a well written look at a very unique historical time in our history.”-R. Hueftle, Amazon Reviewer
“This beautifully and sensitively written book is the third of author Martha Kennedy’s historical novels set near Zurich, Switzerland. The story, which takes place in the 1520s, chronicles the lives, loves, and passions of the six Schneebeli brothers, whose changing and differing religious beliefs clash as the Protestant Reformation, promoted in the Swiss cantons by Ulrich Zwingli, sweeps through their lives.
The book begins with the premature birth of baby Rudolf Schneebeli into the Catholic Schneebeli family, and his death minutes later before he can be baptized. The fact that a beloved child must be buried, unbaptised, in unsanctified ground, begins the book and serves as a catalyst for remarkable changes within the family as some brothers are inspired to follow Zwingli’s new religion while others hold their Catholicism dear. The issue reverberates throughout the book to the last sentence, highlighting the complexities in people’s lives brought on by religious change.
Kennedy not only provides a picture of what the Reformation must have been like on a personal level, but her rendering of what the daily life of the Schneebeli family was probably like rounded out a very satisfying read.”-SusannahReads, Amazon Reviewer
About Martha Kennedy
Award winning author, Martha Kennedy has published three works of historical fiction. Her first novel, Martin of Gfenn, which tells the story of a young fresco painter living in 13th century Zürich, was awarded the Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Review and the BRAG Medallion from IndieBRAG in 2015.
Her second novel, Savior, also an BRAG Medallion Honoree (2016), tells the story of a young man in the 13th century who fights depression by going on Crusade. Her newest novel, The Brothers Path, a loose sequel to Savior, looks at the same family three hundred years later as they find their way through the Protestant Reformation.
Kennedy has also published many short-stories and articles in a variety of publications from the Denver Post to the Business Communications Quarterly.
Kennedy was born in Denver, Colorado and earned her undergraduate degree in American Literature from University of Colorado, Boulder and her graduate degree in American Literature from the University of Denver. She has taught college and university writing at all levels, business communication, literature and English as a Second Language.
For many years she lived in the San Diego area, most recently in Descanso, a small town in the Cuyamaca Mountains. She has recently returned to Colorado to live in Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley.
To learn more about Kennedy’s award-winning novels, Martin of Gfenn and Savior, check out her Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/martha_ann_kennedy
Buy Brothers Path by Martha Kennedy
Chapter 1, Rudolf, June 1524
“Hugo, hurry, get Frau Beck. Tell her it’s an emergency! Then go to the mill for Father and my brothers.”
“Yes, young sir,” said Old Hugo. He stopped his work on the woodpile and rushed to the barn to saddle a horse.
Andreas returned to his mother where she lay almost too weak to do what her body demanded of her. “Old Hugo’s gone for the midwife, Mother.” He sat down by Verena’s bed and took her hand.
“Andreas,” she said, “get Hannes.”
“I can’t leave you alone, Mother. Where is everyone?”
Before Verena could answer, the baby tried again to enter the world. Verena screamed and squeezed Andreas’ hand until he wanted to scream, too. Then she fell silent, exhausted.
Andreas wiped her brow and prayed, “Heavenly Father, please get the midwife here in time. Please don’t let my mother die.”
Verena slept. Andreas waited.
The previous night seemed like a lifetime ago. Andreas had listened to Pastor Zwingli talk about teaching people to read so that all could know the word of God. “The Scripture is clear to everyone,” Zwingli said. “No one needs a priest or a bishop or the Pope to tell them what it means.” By the time the sermon had ended, the city gates were closed. Andreas spent the night at the home of Felix Manz, inside the city walls.
“Missus?” The midwife appeared at Verena’s door. Seeing Verena’s wan and harrowed face, Frau Beck crossed herself. “Surely not yet. Surely not.” She took off her shawl and set down the basket that held the implements of her trade.
“I don’t know, Frau Beck. I got home just a little while ago. There was no one home except Old Hugo. I don’t know where Elsa is, or the children, or Little Barbara, the maidservant.”
“She must have been well when she woke up this morning or she would not be here alone. She should not…”
“I know, Frau Beck.”
“Last time…” Frau Beck stopped and held her peace. Last year, when Verena had miscarried, Frau Beck had warned Old Johann, but he would never believe that by loving his wife and doing what God had ordained, he could hurt her.
Verena awakened and, for a moment, seemed not to know where she was. Then she remembered. “Andreas? Has the midwife come? Has your father come?”
“Frau Beck is here. She’s gone to the kitchen. She’ll be right back. Father has not come yet.”
“No, Mother. He will be here.” Then Andreas felt his mother squeeze his hand hard again. “Frau Beck!” he called out. “Hurry! She’s…”
Frau Beck came in with a basin of water and all the clean linen she had found. She lifted Verena’s knees and spread them. “The baby is on his way. It is too soon, far too soon.” She crossed herself, fearing she’d accidentally willed the little one dead.
Verena cried out again, and, in one final painful spasm of blood and life, the babe came into the world, blue and far too small.
Frau Beck cleared the baby’s mouth, tied the umbilical cord, washed the little one quickly, and was about to give him to Verena but changed her mind. “Take him, young sir,” she said. “Your mother is too weak to hold him, small though he is. You’d best baptize him. I doubt he’ll live long.”
Until this moment, Andreas, at nineteen, had been the youngest Schneebeli boy. He held his tiny brother in his arms and took a deep breath, knowing he would not baptize him. Zwingli’s words on that question were fresh in his mind, that children should be baptized only “…after a firm faith had been implanted in their hearts and they had confessed the same with their mouth…”
“Will you name him, Mother?”
Verena whispered, “Rudolf.”
Within minutes, the baby was dead.
“I’m sorry, young sir. Give him to me. I’ll take care of his little body. A pity he died before you could baptize him.”
His heart empty of all save sorrow, Andreas sat down beside his mother and watched her fall asleep. Frau Beck washed the baby with great tenderness, then swaddled him in a linen towel.
This excerpt will continue at StoreyBook Reviews on October 25th
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